Meet The Artist Painting Brisbane’s Iconic Buildings In Bold Colour 

Recognise this? 

By Natalie McGowan | 6th December 2023

Brisbane, with its ever-expanding skyline, sights, and activities, is home to countless creatives finding inspiration at every turn. One such creative – Brissy local and artist, Tracey Lennon – is devoted to immortalising our beloved River City through her work.

We sat down with Tracey to get a glimpse into her childhood memories of Brisbane, her creative process, and explore her connection with the city that fuels her artistic expression.

Hi Tracey! Thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself…

I’m a Brisbane artist who studied interior design and illustration and worked as a retail designer and a scenic/exhibition painter. I went to a college in America for two years and studied set design, which is where I learned to paint theatre backdrops. I’ve written and illustrated a kid’s book called Bad Hair Days, I’ve shown in regional and local art shows, and in the last two years, I’ve become a full-time artist showing at Red Hill Gallery.

How would you describe your art style?

My art style is clean and poster-like. I love form, line, and interesting perspectives that inspire my choice of subject matter. My style is influenced by my design background, as is my love of colour – particularly saturated colour. 

What is your medium of choice? 

My first choice is paper collage. I use cardboard colours to cut out designs and, if I can’t find a coIour I like, I use poured acrylic paint on watercolour paper to create layered mixed media works. I’ll end up with hundreds of pieces of paper that I can move around until the final design feels right – that is if I don’t lose them on the floor or they stick to the dog! I like to get my collages scanned as they make affordable art prints, which are produced in Brisbane. Recently, I’ve started painting in acrylic on canvas and I like the freedom to shift between the two mediums. 

Brisbane is clearly a big inspiration for you and your art. Can you describe your relationship with the city? 

I love Brisbane and how it’s grown and evolved in the last 20 years. It’s very different from the place we grew up in the 70s. I lived in Melbourne for eight years and I really missed the hot blue light of Brisbane skies and its friendly vibes. Brisbane is full of creative people and I love the architecture of Queenslander houses. 

Where else do you draw inspiration from?

I spend a lot of time at Minjerriba (North Stradbroke Island) and over the years I’ve drawn and painted seascapes and curlews there. I also draw inspiration from mid-century design, 50s and 60s fashion, and great Australian printmakers like Cressida Campbell and Margaret Preston.

Many of your pieces feature various pools around Brisbane. Where does this fascination stem from?

My dad was a keen swimmer and he would take my brother, sister and I swimming into the surf and down the rapids in Cairns, where he grew up. We did squad at school and we’ve been swimmers our whole lives. I now live close to the Valley and Centenary Pool, and swimming has become my exercise and meditation. I love the buildings that house these pools and the community and joy that comes from swimming.

How do you go about capturing the essence of Brisbane through your work?

I make works about the places I love in Brisbane, so often I’m capturing how I feel about the place and my connection to it. I use colour, light/shade, and often quirky details. For example, I did a collage of the Old Museum where we went as kids. It’s such a unique building – red brick, ornate, and almost gothic. I contrasted the red brick with a hot indigo sky and blue shadows. It sits in a manicured landscape and used to be surrounded incongruously by prowling dinosaurs and a terrifying World War One tank called Mephisto, which I included in my artwork.

How has Brisbane’s landscape and architecture changed over the years and how has this influenced your work?

For anyone who grew up in Brisbane in the 70s and 80s, Brisbane’s landscape has changed dramatically. For me, there’s a sense of loss. The buildings that were demolished during the Bjelke-Petersen years were icons like the Bellevue and Cloudland. So much of our built history was erased and I like to conjure it back in my work. I also take photos of old houses that are likely to be demolished. We still face the same threat now with high-rise towers being plonked next to tin and timber houses in old suburbs like New Farm, Paddington, and my street in the Valley. On the upside, Brisbane has embraced its climate and unique flora, which you can see in the Roma Street Parkland and the Botanic Gardens. There are also many talented architects and designers who are reinventing Brisbane houses. My daughter, Rose, is an architect and the next generation is carrying on that legacy of creating and celebrating sub-tropical buildings and gardens. That is also something that informs my work.

Where is your favourite spot in Brisbane?

Tricky question! I used to live at Red Hill and Trammies Corner, situated on a leafy hill in Paddington, and that’s where I think of as my heart space. I liked to find peace just sitting in the shade looking over the city. Now I spend my time at New Farm Park; it’s such a treasure in the inner city with its roses, curlews, and jacarandas.

Which of your pieces are you most proud of?

It’s like naming your favourite child. I’d say my first collage of Centenary Pool because it captured how I admired the mid-century architecture and how I felt about the pool, the colours of Brisbane, and swimming. It set me on a creative path where there’s a lot more to discover.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just finished a show at Red Hill Gallery with David Hinchliffe and Geraldine Mackenzie. Next year, there will be another exhibition at Red Hill Gallery, more works based on beaches and pools, and maybe a painting workshop in France!

By Natalie McGowan Office DJ and serial online shopper, Natalie’s idea of self care is watching reality TV and getting a spontaneous tattoo.
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